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Dallas Bird Photographers Robert Bunch Daniel S. Lim
Greater Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake
There's several differences between yesterday's shot of probably the same owl, since this was shot with my recuperating Nikon D7000 with that 300mm lens that is significantly sharper than almost anything else but especially sharper than the Panasonic lens I used yesterday. And today's owl was within a hundred feet of yesterday's.
I hadn't got this close to a Barred or any other wild owl since I found and followed Bart in the Fitchery in March of 2007, although I've seen and photographed them attached to volunteer's thick leather gloves from time to time. So much nice to see them free and hunting. Always a thrill.
I did not see the little head, which seems to be facing right, when I photographed this nest that I've known about for several years. I've photographed it before, and I've always had a booger of a time pinpointing it even though I know which tree in which grove in which forest it's in, it was and is always a challenge.
I just thought it would be a good idea to document it today to have something besides that gorgeous owl to show. I think this is a juvie, but my knowledge about these things is minimal. Now I know just where it is, I'm more likely to return and photograph it more and maybe get parents and kits peeking up a little farther out of the nest.
Hard to believe, but same deal in this entirely different nest. I knew kinda where it was, but not exactly, so this was a drive-by shot. I photographed a couple other bumps in the trees there, hoping to figure out later when I had more time, which was a nest and which weren't. I didn't shoot while I was still driving. I pulled The Slider over and stopped on the downhill slide off the side of the road, then pointed up out the window steadily and carefully. Now I know who's up there, I'll be back to spend some time.
Not bad detail for the not altogether superior 100-300mm Panasonic zoom. My Nikon 300mm, especially on a 2x extender, would have brought us a lot more detail, but I wasn't expecting this much bird bounty today, and there's been more people than birds lately, so I wasn't expecting anything. I saw some guys aiming fat lenses up into the trees but I didn't recognize anybody since my far vision is so lousy.
This is what they were shooting at. Lacking a tripod, I held my camera firmly against a nearby tree, aimed up at the own, and got this and about twenty other shots, of which this was far far the sharpest. The whole scene was what photographers used to call Cloudy Bright, way too bright, it looks like, for the owl. Robert said the owl had changed perches several times that day and had gone after various prey. Some of it lay bloodied nearby (and I'm amazed I didn't go over and photograph it, since I was packing a wide-angle zoom and a very bright short (flat, too) lens.
Its branch swayed in the breeze, and it looked like it was easy to sway along with it. It seemed unconcerned. That deep-furrowed frown stayed on its face.
I got step-by-step shots as it slowly stuck out its foot and brought the wind into position, all while maintaining one-foot balance. Gotta keep those wings in good hopping order. I've seen brown gooses hop as far as twenty, maybe thirty feet if they'd got up good speed, but I've never seen one fly.
Or something like that.
The Medical School Rookery
March 28 2013
It's one thing to photograph birds in flight, and quite another to photograph birds flying through trees. The birds knew they could do it, because they'd been doing it all their lives. If I could fly, I'd probably be bumping into a lot of branches.
I wasn't even sure I could photograph a big white bird flying through the green and brown woods. So color me surprised my Nikon kept this big bird who was far far away, stayed in focus through its comparatively short flight.
Looks like it's about to reach out and grab something, and so ending its flight. All three frames worth. It was the high point of today's visit to the rookery.
Meanwhile, upstairs, gossamer tressed Great Egrets were busy showing off their breeding plumage. I don't remember if I even saw the beak and eyes and head here, but it's lovely. I wish I'd planned it.
I remember first becoming acquainted with robins in Belleville Illinois when I was a kid of about ten years old. I remember the red breast, but not any of that white stuff, around its yes, under its tail or flecked through its neck and everywhere else, so real robins always surprise me with their classy looks.
I guess there could be some visiting family or friends who aren't in breeding plumes and colors, but who else would you find at a rookery?
Breeding Egrets up in trees are plentiful at the rookery.
A lot of that going on in a rookery.
A couple I talked with today were all excited about seeing a few Black-crowned Night Herons there. I told them there were at least forty who look down from the trees on the far side of The Old Boathouse Lagoon on White Rock Lake. But I'm not sure they knew where that was.
I can't decide which BCNH look I prefer.
The Spillway at White Rock Lake
March 27 2013
Was hoping for egrets flying around over the lower steps, but that wasn't happening. I was exhausted from over working out at the Y, but felt need to walk up the hill and maybe find something worth photographing today.
Bug chunks often get caught on the edge of the dam. Eventually they wash one way or the other.
Coots were very busy pecking and eating something under the surface but not far under. Very busy.
Wings up and ready to spread. It's just a short jump, but …
I was hoping to catch it midway and at the bottom, but this is probably more than enough.
Blue-winged Teal, American Coots and more ducks.
From where I stood, high above the spillway proper, these guys looked so impossibly small, I walked right past their little island, then I came back and shot this same shot several times.
Then I shot a few individuals, hoping maybe I could identify them. I assume they're all one species hanging out so close in together. I think they are Least Sandpipers, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake
This gull has something it found just under the surface. No telling what.
Then along came some of its pals.
Difficult to tell what they were up and down to, but one dropped the stick, and another one swooped down to fetch it.
And a couple others did the same thing only without the stick.
The bottom one got something that didn't look like much.
Not unlike a bad game of catch.
The Medical Center Rookery
March 25 2013
First I visited Sunset Bay, where it seemed really cold. I only stayed maybe 20 minutes and only saw the same old birds, but I photographed them anyway, and they're below. Then I drove through the beginnings of Rush Hour traffic to the rookery to see what I could see.
All today's shots were taken with a Panasonic Lumix G5, not one of my trusty Nikons. I hadn't used it in awhile, and I needed to try it, to feel it again, and I was leaning toward a little experimentation, without going overboard. Mostly I just wanted to photograph some birds. I've still never got a really good shot of a Blue Jay, but this was this day's first little bird I attempted to photograph among all those Great Egrets.
I didn't see any other big birds at the rookery today. Just Great Egrets in a lot of places. There'll be many more to come. Eventually, it'll be nearly impossible not to find photogenic birds without trying to focus through branches, which I did a lot of today. I always grumble when I don't get sharp images, but I got an amazing lot of sharp images today.
Hope it's obvious I don't know who this is. I wanted it to be a Yellow-rumped Warbler, because every spring about this time, I find and photograph one of those and mis-identify it as something else. Unfortunately what are often called "Butter Butts" don't have these markings or that cute little straggly yellow and orange beard. I'll keep looking, but if anybody out there knows, I'd be happy to hear from them.
Oddly enough, I got really far-away birds sharper than much closer birds. I need more recent practice photographing egrets in flight. But there were darned few of those this latish afternoon. I should go back soon in better, overhead light.
I don't really know what it was doing.
Takes awhile to get to the top of it, but the parking garage across the street affords a great telephoto view of the rookery. Here a Great Egret lands where it will soon become a wispy blob of white up there.
Baby's beak is gaping open. It may need food. The nearest adult is probably related, but it didn't do anything about that big maw.
I'm not sure why exactly I so needed to photograph these particular ducks, but I made the attempt several times before I got it this good.
They stared at the board for long minutes as I hung my head, hands, cam and lens out The Slider's front window. The guy on the right, turned all the way around, and I thought he was staring right at me, but then he went back to staring at the other guy with the other hat. I never saw either of them move any pieces.
I don't know what this is about, but I could not not photograph it.
I heard a fracas among the gooses at Sunset Bay when I was standing on the pier. I started photographing them well before I'd thought I figured out what was going on, but it wasn't.
So this is instinctive shooting. Nothing's planned. The composition is however I could keep whom I believed to be the stars of the action, in the frame and sometimes even in focus.
When I was finished and reviewed all the shots, the rapidly-changing scenes seem to have a lot in common with abstractions, although there was a lot of biting going on. And wing flapping and running.
For most of this series I'm showing you full frames, although after awhile I got tired of that and began cropping somewhat. Still doesn't necessarily mean anybody can tell what's going on.
In a big circle on land and on lake, scaring a lot of other birds who got in the way.
I've edited out a few shots that were blurry or showed even less, but kept the fun ones. Notice the brown goose never lets go of biting the white one. I assumed they were angry. There's a lot of anger being shown around the barnyard and lakeside lately, now that it's officially springtime.
And a lot of splashing and feathered furry.
Water everywhere as the action continued.
By now I was thinking this might be about sex, but Annette, who knows all the players by their first names, told Anna, and Anna told me — nobody uses email anymore — that these two birds have been angry with each other for awhile.
I've seen goose sex, and it was never like this. And I've seen the busy-body geese get themselves involved in ducks having sex. They don't seem to abide it. They get in the way and do everything they can to stop it. But this is not sex. It's just a big, biting-on-the-shoulders fight.
Unfortunately, nobody else in the barnyard is big enough to get in these giants' business.
This is almost like seeing a four-legged goose with two sets of wings. Or a beast with two backs. But it is a fight, not sex. Okay? I was wrong at first. It's just a nasty old fight.
Visually kinda abstract.
And getting more so.
I love the textures of wings flapping.
But eventually the action slowed.
And inexplicably stopped. I didn't see it start. I just heard it. And knew it would be worth tuning in. Not that I had anything better to do at the time.
The Fort Worth Drying Beds Near Legacy Park
Finally I got a couple half-way decent shots of the Great Horned Owl nest high over the swamp at The Drying Beds near Legacy Park in southwestern Arlington, Texas. These are nest-bound Fledglings of the fierce hunter species who'll eat nearly anything up to and including their size they can catch. The owlet at the top left is flapping its wings over its head. Unfortunately, in this show — one of few that are sharp from that far away — only shows its left wing. The other wing is behind the mast of the tree.
We can see two of them with heads and one that's just tail and body (leaning up to the right behind that main tree section) in this shot. I had identified these as adults, but now I've spent time staring at the pictures in Sibley's Guide to Birds, I know better. I just wish I could get closer, and that my lens would work if I trudged all the way out there.
I got whom I assume is this same exact hawk on Anna's and my last visit to the beds, but not this close nor this dramatic. Nice, shot, J R. When my 300mm lens doubled, absolutely refused to focus, I quickly switched lenses to my good-old-used-to-be 70-300mm zoom, which auto-focused long enough to capture this bird's many circles close overhead. I assume it was checking me out as I was it.
This is whom I was photographing when the long telephoto (300mm X2 = 600mm X 1.5 DX crop factor = 900mm equivalent (if you believe in equivalents. I'm not sure I do.) absolutely quit focusing for about twenty minutes. This is more or less focused (or more correctly, not quite focused) manually. I was struggling in these moments. The lens had already quit auto-focusing. But I kept trying, hoping, praying... If I made this shot a little smaller, you might think it was sharp.
Past the whoosh of the wind and roar of airplanes and cars on the big road nearby and everything else noises ganging up, I could hear them singing to each other for awhile, till they decided to get out of there.
Didn't stop me from clicking away in desperate hope.
I'm so glad Anna and I got to see and hear a pair of Sandhill Cranes while driving along Galveston Island back whenever that was.
The cushioned the blow of misfocusing these guys.
Oh, yeah. There's still some shots from Anna's and my first vist this week to the beds. Maybe I can track them down. Or maybe I'll just lose them.
White Rock Lake
I'd planned to do a test of my lens, camera and extender that morning. When my first birding opportunity got pushed back three hours, I went to White Rock where longtime reader Jennifer Luderman emailed she'd seen many Night-Herons recently, and that reminded me of my longtime promise to myself to go to the Old Boathouse Lagoon at 8 ayem, when the sun rises over T.P. Hill and illuminates the trees on the other side of the lagoon.
In those trees along where the railroad tracks used to run, are dozens of Night-Herons. Used to include Yellow-crown Night-Herons, now it's mostly Black-crowned Night-Herons. And the occasional Great Blue Heron, of course.
So this was part A of two tests this day. This version, as you can see from the sharp images here, was a resounding success. I even got some birds in flight and landing, sharp. I was firing on all cylinders for awhile.
If I'd put these in strict chronological order, I might have been able to track the slow dissolution of sharp focus. By Part B, later that morning, when Anna and I drove back to the Fort Worth Drying Beds in Arlington, my 2X-extender-doubled (as all of these shots were) Nikon D7000 would not create sharp images, like these. So we'll just concentrate on what I got this morning.
Some of these images may be just a little soft. Or the trees and branches between me and these shy Black-crowned Night-Herons caught the focus. It's difficult to tell, except that sometimes I got great, sharp images, and any time I can do that lately, it's cause for celebration.
When I tired of shooting one species, I'd switch to another. I love photographing birds in the Old Boathouse Lagoon in springtime.
This is likely to be a tussle about mating. If it is not them actively engaged in mating, it's probably them fighting about it.
Although most of the time, all seemed calm.
At first, because of the apparent size difference, I thought that Gadwall on the far right was a juvenile, but this bird has the distinct coloration of an adult male Gadwall (duck). My oft-cited Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas lists the comparative sizes. Mallards are 20-27.5 inches long, and Gadwalls are 18-22 inches, although here the Gadwall looks maybe slightly larger than the juvenile Mallard. What's really hard to believe is that there's only one baby Mallard.
Maybe it's the early morning light I am so unused to seeing, but this looks like an adult Gadwall, except there's no two-toning on its mostly blonde head. The Crossley I.D. Guide shows a variety of ages, but this particular configuration seems missing,, but it looks like a adult male body with some other species' head. Which seems unlikely.
Ah, but the real star of today's proceedings since I left the herons in the trees above, were the Northern Shovelers, whom I happened — just as I was leaving — to see engaged in a courtship ritual I'd only previously seen in gooses. But first, three rapid-fire shots of a single stand-up and flap routine, which I also happened to capture well.
In this short series, we get to see many of the vivid colors that make shovelers so amazingly colorful.
Here, our star is putting away its wings after the furious flapping.
Two male shovelers circle each other in the water, showing off their colors.
It's a competition.
Note the differences of their colorations. Wish I could show you the action as they extended their necks as high as their heads would go, then retracted them back into their breasts. Up and down in unison. Colorful and comical, though they seemed very serious.
This shot shows both extremes of head-bobbing. Like I say, usually the upped and downed together. I'm not sure which duck won or how they determined that, but first one chose a female, then the other after the bobbing was over. After the initial splash-skirmish, which I miseed photographing, there was no animosity exhibited by either duck.
Today was my The Great Nikon D7000 Focus Test, to see if the camera I bought to tike me over till Nikon released a bigger, badder, faster camera, would focus. Last two times out, it did not. Today, it was superb.
I have seen between a dozen and a dozen and a half pelicans in Sunset Bay in the last couple weeks. Either I've missed the mass of them, or the mass of them have already gone north and west to breed, nest and raise their young. They'll be back mid next September or October.
I didn't hear anything like a burp. Just I'd never seen a pelican take a bath then do this, before. I have no idea what it's up to. It got clean and then it did this.
I figure they're cleaning their feathers for the long fly back to Idaho.
It was plenty warm, good day for a bath.
In the hills over the Filter Building and the Old Pump House runs a rutted and often-slogged-over dirt road. I drove up it to photograph these guys.
The extensive hatched nests of Monk Parakeets have overrun those hum towers in the past. Today, they seemed even smaller than last time I was there, but that same sign promising us all that the electric company that owns The Hum would live in harmony with the parakeets, but I am almost certain, they still tear down those nests when nobody's looking. Big winds can blow big pieces of the nests away, but most of them remained after a storm. But the electric company storm has blown them nearly to smithereens.
This guy looks pretty good coming in for a landing, but look how big it was before I cropped it down to this size.
These two shots were shot within seconds of each other, at that same framing. That one above is one sharp photograph.
About the same framing. I don't have another camera that could do this.
This is what I was trying for a couple days ago.
Coot running with its food.
Gulls give chase.
They didn't get the food from the coot, but they gave it a good attempt.
Not sure why I needed to photograph that sail, and I did not see the grackles flying by until they did, but I got 'em, though I'm not sure you would have seen them if I hadn't told you about them.
I saw a lot of birds with white faces flying by, started wondering who they were, stopped The Slider in front of one of the major mansions on the west side, checked the rear-view and there was a cop car coming. I clicked about a half dozen times, got back on the road, and drove on.
I saw it, worried somebody would flatten before I got there, I got there, photographed it.
I needed to photograph something besides birds for a change, but if there was a particularly good, bird, oh, why not? I wandered all the way around the lake, and this may be the most beautiful of my landscape shots from today.
This is the pier at Free Advice Point. In fact, the Free Advice people were loading up their sign when I rolled though. I was there to park to walk back and photograph a Great Blue Heron, posed perfectly on a log north of there.
Usually who I see standing here is a cormorant, but a Great Blue Heron is better. I'd seen one flying toward the lake from the east side, but I was driving then, and couldn't pull over, so I just watched and wondered when I'd last seen one flying over the lake. It's been awhile. To catch up with it again — or one very much like it — felt lucky.
Well, this is what turning Winfrey Hill into a parking lot would look like, just like it's what it did look like today. Where the most cars were gathered parking on the lawn, where it's illegal for most folks to park — there's signs all around the park forbidding it, but if you're going to a rich person's party, it's okay. I guess.
I guess I probably should say, "where the Killdeer had their nests." I bet those nests either have been moved, or squashed flat. Just how the Arborectum would have liked it all these months. We protest when the Arboretum suggests they might like to, but when real people, as directed by renta-cops, park there, we offer not a whimper.
Such a beautiful lake, I wonder why I usually don't get carried away with all the landscapery.
This is often what it looks like on the weekends, which is why it's rare I attend then. But a nice mix of people.
I've seen coyotes and horses and people and today even saw dogs in this area, mostly here I saw landscapes, although it has been a place of peacocks in the past and probably the future, too.
Odd image collection today, probably because I was more intent on learning whether there was something the matter with my 300mm lens or was it just me? In retrospect, I think it's mostly me not being able to hand-hold that big chunk of glass, so I blurred some shots, then I freaked out blaming the camera that I used to always use for that lens.
Nothing wrong with the focus on these first two shots, nor any of the rest of today's bounty. These are sharp. Next step is to check my newer Nikon camera, to see if I were right guessing that it was the problemo. Long time ago, my first guess about what that thing at the back of this (and all other pelicans) beaks was a tongue. But it's an innie, not an outtie. I think somebody who knew told me a long time ago, that it was some sort of sphincter or drain, to let them drain all the water they sometimes fill their stretchable lower mandible up with when they seining for fish.
This is a male grackle with a large chunk of what looks like bread. Another male grackle looks on, and a coot is probably interested in the chunk, too. I've seen gulls take chunks from coots, but I've never seen a coot take one from a grackle.
It looks like the nonflying grackle is walking on water. Coots can do that, but not grackles. This one is walking on the log they were both standing on briefly ago.
Here's an odd duck with an incipient top knot. I've heard so much contradictory information about who top-knot ducks really are, I'm not even going to conjecture. It's a duck.
Although I started this quick series by pushing the shutter button, and holding it there a couple times after that first shot. I really had no idea what I'd capture. What I wanted to capture, oddly enough, is a series of images almost exactly like this series. But I never know till after that happens, and that doesn't ever happen often enough to count on it.
The coot partially, now mostly underwater, is using its big, lobed feet as a sort of eggbeater propeller to propel it down, when its air-filled body wants to bring it up.
I'd seen action like this before, and the last several times, I promised myself the next time I saw the start of such a series, I'd apply finger to button and hope. Keep Hope Alive. This time it worked. Usually it does not. This is the only time in memory that it did work. So I'm glad I tried.
I can't tell what it is in the emerging coot's beak, but I like the way the water rushing off a coot's front here makes it look like the coot in question has on a tuxedo. Or something like that. Black & White dress-up.
I've been procrastinating showing you my results from our latest trip to the Fort Worth Drying Beds, because they're so varied. But some of them are good, so I'll drag them into this spot soon. And some of them aren't.
couple days ago
Thought the day was going to be all about cormorants, there were so many of them gathered in Sunset Bay that day. They don't usually come in that close, and I usually don't care that much for them, but in the absence of flying pelicans, I was willing to try.
Took me awhile to remember which camera and lens I was using this day, several days ago. Must have been a good telephoto. Like I say, the cormorants almost never come in close.
My Nikon might have given me slightly better shots than these, but because I had my Panasonic zoom, I could see what was up there, then zoom in. I'm amazed how sharp these are.
Especially when I zoomed full in on one or another bird. This is why I keep coming back to Sunset Bay even in late winter, even if spring is just a few weeks away. And I know the pelicans will be leaving, as they almost always do, right around Tax Day. They're always gone by April 15.
Well, that is, the ones that can fly. I think we still have that one released a couple summers ago after all the other pelicans had left for the northwesterns U.S. The few we've tracked, summer in Southeastern Idaho, which is where they mate, nest and all that. The fin on these pelican's beaks indicate that they are breeding adults of both sexes.
They came down fairly close to the sufrace of the lake during their flyby that day, to drop off two local pelicans who were staying at Sunset Bay. I managed to greatly misfocus everything those two did. I should have just watched. The rest of the flock must have been planning a much greater distance fly today.
There were only about a dozen who continued their journey past our Sunset Bay enclave. From about treetop height here, they gyred higher and higher and higher over this end of the lake.
I don't know how many it takes to become a flock. Apparently a dozen will do. Maybe even eleven. I'd show you the pictures of them so far up I couldn't see them any more, but I don't know why. After awhile, all I saw was blue sky.
These shots are because I was worrying about my 300mm telephoto lens. With the 2X teleconverter last time I tried it, it was making scary sounds, so I took the converter off and promised myself I'd try the Nikon D300 (circa 2008) and the tele lens next time I got the need to photograph me some birds. That's not an unusual feeling, just that lately I've been very lucky with my newer much smaller and lighter Panasonic Lumix G5 camera, and the thought of hauling the already heavy Nikon camera and that huge lens, wasn't altogether fascinating.
But I did it anyway. And I was again amazed at how fast a focuser this lens is. Interactions between Ring-billed Gulls and American Coots are usually adversarial. Essentially, they like to eat the same sorts of things. The two species don't just have similar tastes. They want the same things. So if coots find something tasty, gulls will try to take it away. The third coot head from the left has its face covered with something soggy and white, just the sort of thing any self-respecting (and boy, do they) gull would covet.
Gulls may look kinda mean, and they may act greedy. But it's not so much anger and hunger that's ruling this cross-species association.
I've heard people standing on the pier at Sunset Bay marvel about how angry the gulls are sometimes. But they are a playful lot generally. The only time there's any semblance of animosity is when humans interfere in the natural swing of things by feeding both gulls and coots, which most of those more or less humans describe as "feeding the ducks," even though neither species is a duck.
When humans don't "feed the ducks," gulls and coots get along adequately. When humans do, they seem to fight, although the gulls almost always win. I don't know whether coots get along with each other when humans aren't feeding them, but I've never seen them do that, and I've been watching.
I won't go into how much more nutritious is the food that either species finds for itself. But a scene of coots feeding themselves is usually pretty tranquil.
Enough about interspecies animosity. Not all of today's shots were sharply focused, of course. Coots and gulls together go at it fast and furious, so it's a significant challenge just to keep them in the frame, let alone focus them. Plus, the closer they get, the more likely I won't get even placid old scaups sharp, but I did, which probably means I need to get the telextender fixed. Darn.
The goose with the biggest wattle is usually the leader of the pack. I asked this one, on sentinel at the pier today, whether he was the boss, but he didn't say nothin'.
There were more cormorants in the bay today than any other species, but since they didn't come in very close, I did not often attempt to shoot or focus them. These were the closest.
I don't know what this is. Or if it's any one thing. It just looks like something or some things dead.
It was about as close as I've got to a fishing party in a long long time, but I thought I should bring my Nikon, so I'd remember how to work it, and except for a couple shots, like this one, and the few following, all my fishing party photos did not focus well. This one I like.
More corms arriving seemed splashy and exciting for a few seconds, then everybody in the party remembered that nothing was happening. Nobody was catching any fish. Nobody was even seeing any fish. As a fishing party, the whole thing was a big bore. This was the first time in a couple weeks I even attempted to photograph birds with my 300mm lens doubled. I've been using this significantly lighter 100-300mm lens for my little micro four-thirds Panasonic Lumix G5, which focuses a tad better than my Nikon did today, but Mercury's Retrograde, so anything weird can happen, then un-happen, soon as one gets worried.
The dozen or so pelicans stayed with the fishing party as it swayed left and right in the big middle of the lake off shore of Garland Road, about where that first pier is, past the spillway. Hope was in greater supply than fish.
Pretty and very very wet. Gadwalls dabble sometimes but more than any of their close cousins, Gadwalls dive. My Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas says they have a subtle beauty, which gets it absolutely correct. Very handsome duck, especially with those sunset colors blending to white along their back when swimming.
I only saw maybe four killdeer all afternoon. Starting with this one on the lake side of the recently renamed (so if anything else burned down, maybe next time the fire department can find that building before it burns down, unlike when The Dreyfuss Club burned down a few years ago. But I wouldn't take any bets.
What he was looking back curiously at was me as I leaned the Teff-a-Loto out the window at it and clicked away, hoping some of the shots would be in better focus than the pelicans and cormorants a few minutes before. This is much sharper, and even I thought it was truly cute for that Killdeer to look back over its shoulders at that angle at me.
I was amazed it didn't get up on its tall legs and briskly walk away. Especially about this point in time (Did you know we rarely had "points in time" before Watergate?), when a police man pulled up to the road side of me, parked in the trough off to the left side of the one-way street up to the top of Winfrey Hill. He stopped at my passenger side window, so I rolled it down. He asked if I were lost. No, said I, I'm photographing birds. Which apparently was the rightest thing to say — as well as being all the truth I knew just then — because he smiled and drove off.
I was surprised the kermotion didn't scare the Killdeer away entirely, but it got up to full tallth, and slowly walked first that way, then came back and walked to the left, parallel to The Slider and the road. At first it was too close to see its long thin legs.
But after maybe a minute or so, he continued walking in the direction it'd started walking into. After, of course, doing the Killdeer bobble a few times, wherein they get taller and shorter while standing there. Kinda like one of us going up on our tippy-toes to see farther, although I don't really know why they do it. Another cute birdism I don't know the true meaning of.
How hard can it be? One of my ongoing challenges in any year when the hoardes of American Coots are still present on the lake is to capture one or two or three of them running on the water. Officially the term is "skittering," and coots aren't the only ones who do that. Scaups do sometimes, and I think I saw a Bufflehead run that way, also.
But there's just so many coots out there. And every single solitary one of them is easily panicked. And when they are in a panic, what they do is run flying across whatever surface there is. And they find water to be their safety. So where else would they skitter but across the water?
And I even see at least one of them skitter almost every time I ever see coots at White Rock, so what's the deal about it being difficult or a challenge. This should be easy. But it's not. If I can do one good one every coot season, I figure I'm still on target, but years have gone by without me getting one coot-skittering pic.
None of these are totally wonderful, but here, when I got about as close as close can get, I lopped of its head...
I saw another one fly this same very short flight path, and I decided the next one that does that, I'll attempt a focus from the pier at Sunset Bay, just to see if my new camera can do it. It did it, and this is proof. Pretty sharp for such a small portion of the frame. The log the pelican on the left is standing on is all glittery in the setting sun, but it's really a log holding it up. And our flying pelican is aiming for left out of the frame here.
The canoer told me about seeing the magnificence of a pelican taking off. I was amazed he hadn't frightened these guys off. I've seen other canoers who went out of their way to scare as many birds as they could see from point to point around the bay. This guy was quiet, gentle and in no great hurry.
I was kinda surprised when he hove up to the pier on I was standing on, parked a few items on the pier, and within moments had got himself and a canoe five of my paces long (I measured to see if it would fit in the back of The Slider; I'm afraid too much of it would stick out.).
He told me I should get a boat. Believe me I've thought about it, but I'm frightened I might get my camera wet, although I've been talking with a friend who shoots underwater art, and she's using an "Ewa-Marine U-A Underwater Housing" — essentially a plastic bag — similar to the one shown and zoomable on this page, and I've thought about that possibility for even longer. I still worry about getting water on one of my cameras, a lens or something. Catamaran makes a pedal-powered foam boat that I've not got to try out yet but Anna did, that's not protected from the water hardly at all, but with which I think I could get in pretty close. But it costs a thousand dollars.
the U.T. Southwestern Medical School Rookery
We'll have better views of egret — and other species — sex when the rookery gets a little more crowded toward human spring. But I'm pretty sure this is egret sex, although the crux of the matter is largely blocked by the tree in the foreground, and there is the issue of his head being unseen, and other issues of visual inconsistency. All of which is kinda why I didn't present these yesterday, although I had the order of things happening just exactly backwards then.
The next image was moved up from yesterday's shots. Then I thought that was preamble, as stepping on her back often is, to sex, but now I see that it had already happened in the images above.
I watched carefully, then thoroughly scrutinized the shots at high resolution, and I can see no instance of actual sex, although the male standing on his partner's back is usually the signal for something like that ensuing. Once he got up there, he stayed for several more exposure's worth. Like with many birds, egret sex is quick.
Standing on the top of a nearly leafless tree. Early in spring. Late in winter. They've started nesting in the Medical School Rookery again, of course. And this was our first visit, and lots of Great Egrets gave us a plume=swaying show.
Today's birds were ensconced in the upper regions of trees, so the rest of the branches pretty much stayed between me and them.
Nest-sitting high in the trees.
Didn't see any babies or downy youth, only the adding and adjusting of twigs in nests.
Their lores (the skin area around their eyes) are still kinda grayish. When they're green, they'll be ready.
This is to give you a little Great Egret context.
Note how its eye has revolved in its socket to slant toward the preen in action among its neck feathers. I've never noticed or photographed that ability before. Its lores are green to show it's in breeding mode.
Like many of today's shots, this one is right on the money focus-wise. And yes, all these were shot with the Panasonic Lumix G5.
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My favorite answer is, "I don't
am, after all, an amateur.
I'm not kidding. I've only been birding for six years,
although I've been photographing professionally since 1964.
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